Monday, May 20, 2013

A Review of Zac Snyder's Sucker Punch

Oh Yes, One More Thing --   Sucker Punch Has No Plot


Sucker Punch Banner | A Constantly Racing Mind

The theme of perception and alternative realities is pervasive in today's cinema. Some recent examples include; "Caprica" (2009), "The Adjustment Bureau" (2011), "Inception" (2010), "Shutter Island" (2010), and to some degree, "Black Swan" (2010). Going back a bit further in film history to 1998's "What Dreams May Come,"  "The Matrix" (1999) and further back to "Pink Floyd's The Wall" (1982) are a series of films with the common theme of escaping into one's mind while searching for solace from the pain of reality. Although the movies are a way to escape the boredom or the realities of everyday life, audiences have a tendency to want their fantasy films, or their escapes to have some attachment to the real world, however slight, in order to affirm a sense of being believable. "Sucker Punch" stars Emily Browning ("Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" - 2004), Abbie Cornish ("Limitless" - 2011), Oscar Isaac ("Robin Hood" - 2010), Jena Malone ("The Ruins" - 2008), Carla Gugino ("Spy Kids" - 2001), and Scott Glenn ("Secretariat" - 2010). The MPAA rates this film PG-13.

"Sucker Punch is a totally incomprehensible over the top set of dream sequences that thinly disguise a pretentious, but weak, morality tale aimed at the younger 'hip' video game audiences. Quite frankly, initially when watching the trailers for "Sucker Punch", I was thrilled to see what I considered was a virtual world filled with vehicles, weapons, and fashion styles of various periods meshed seamlessly together in a way that I believe only Tim Burton can achieve. Unfortunately, what Zac Snyder presented is a disjointed tale of a girl whose grasp of sanity is deeply in question from the first scene, to the last. Also in question is Snyder's comprehension of what works for a story. Shifting between an oddly tinted color sequences and black and white images, "Sucker Punch" follows Baby Doll (Browning), whose mother dies, leaving her and her younger sister in the care of her evil stepfather. The stepfather (Gerard Plunkett) is a lecherous greedy bastard who first wants to have his way with Baby Doll, but ends up, instead, with her younger sister. In an effort to protect her sister, Baby Doll shoots her stepfather and inadvertently kills her sister. Sent away to an insane asylum, Baby Doll retreats from her personal hell, by slipping into psychedelic trance while dancing an exotic raw sexually charged dance sequence while dreaming of a fantasy world where she and her friends are the heroines.
Sucker Punch World War I | A Constantly Racing Mind

Like Nolan's "Inception," Snyder provides several levels of Baby Doll's ability to perceive her reality. The first level is that instead, of being dropped off at an insane asylum by her step dad, she was dropped off at nightclub/brothel by a priest. In this reality, it is her duty to dance and please the customers. In this level, the color pallet that Snyder uses is more the look of a color tinted black and white photograph. What could potentially become an exciting story with a purpose devolves into a poor shadow of the traditional test and quest heroine journey. What Snyder does is creates several Sci-Fi music videos that feature Baby Doll, Sweet Pea (Cornish), and Rocket (Malone). Oscar Isaac stars as Blue Jones, a high ranking orderly in Baby Doll's reality, and the owner of the nightclub in her Brothel fantasy. Tying all these visually spectacular music videos together is Scott Glenn as the Mentor. Baby Doll first meets him during her first trip into her second level of alternate reality (AR). In this version, we find Glenn as the Mentor in a Buddhist monastery and tells her that she must acquire the following items back in her first level of AR: A knife, fire, a map, a key, and of course the last item is a mystery for Baby Doll to discover at the end. Carla Gugino plays Dr. Vera Gorski who in this film doubles as the head psychiatrist of the institution, and the dance instructor at the brothel. Her job is to teach the girls to survive the hell-hole of the brothel/asylum.
Sucker Punch Cast | A Constantly Racing Mind

Baby Doll's fellowship of conspirators includes Rocket, Amber (Jamie Chung) as the getaway driver, and reluctantly Sweet Pea, who as the oldest, is as the de facto leader of the girls and the common sense anchor of the group. In the fantasy worlds of Baby Doll's mind, which is a combination of Science Fiction and Fantasy, seems out of place, as Baby Doll doesn't strike me as a nerdy geek of a girl. In fact, Baby Doll appears more like Brittany Spears look alike in all of her perceptions of reality. I am understandably confused and am disturbed by a certain lack of period accuracy. The girl's hair styles are wrong, instead of looking like a woman from the 1950's; they look like Victoria's Secret models. The exceptions are Gugino's and Isaac's brothel scenes, which seem correct. The fedora is in fashion once again like in Caprica and "Brylcreem" is also back in style. An unlikely scene for the 1950's is the possibility of a plain paper copier being used in a brothel. I saw a guard wearing IPods ear buds.

With "Sucker Punch,"  Zac Snyder creates a visually stunning world, over the top action sequences, while unable to construct a story that has any meaning, or a theme of any sort. In our present world of video games and Facebook, our perception of reality is already terribly confused, blurred, and shadowy. Zack Snyder, whilst on LSD allows his better judgment to lose its way in the fluid world of CGI so deeply, that the audience sits and ponders if the resultant film is artistic genius, or just downright stupid. I choose the latter, and recommend "Sucker Punch" for DVD rental on a day where you are incredibly bored, or already in an altered state of reality.

Movie Data

Genre:  Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Year:  2011
Staring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer(s): Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya
Producer(s):Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder
Rating: PG-13
Review originally published in 2/16/2012 on Yahoo! Voices